LAS VEGAS — Tad Boyle tried to plead the case for Jeriah Horne as the Pac-12 Conference’s possible Sixth Man of the Year. The league, however, decided rules are rules.
Boyle nominated Horne for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award, but guidelines state a player cannot be eligible for the honor if he has started more than a third of his team’s conference games. Horne started nine Pac-12 games for the Buffs, with six of them occurring while usual front court starter Dallas Walton was sidelined by injury and illness.
Of the three other Pac-12 games Horne started, one was the Jan. 20 game at Washington when Walton returned and was eased back into the rotation off the bench.
Instead, the Sixth Man of the Year award went to Arizona’s Jordan Brown, who started 12 games for the Wildcats but only six in Pac-12 play. For the season, he averaged 9.4 points and 5.2 rebounds. Horne, meanwhile, heads into CU’s Pac-12 quarterfinal date on Thursday night against Cal (9:30 MT, ESPN) averaging 11.5 points and a team-best 6.0 rebounds. His .443 3-point percentage is on pace to be one of the top-five single-season marks in Buffs history.
McKinley Wright IV led the Buffs Pac-12 year-end honorees by earning his third straight spot on the All-Pac-12 first team while receiving honorable mention for the All-Defensive team. It was the third honorable mention All-Defense for Wright, who also was first team All-Defense last year.
Jabari Walker landed on the All-Freshman team despite missing six games in February due to a foot injury. Junior guard Eli Parquet earned first team All-Defense honors, and while Boyle didn’t specifically say he nominated Parquet for the Pac-12 Most Improved Player award, this week he spoke as if that’s what happened.
“I thought Jabari Walker on the All-Freshman team was a nice recognition, especially for his limited minutes,” Boyle said. “I think if Tristan da Silva might have gotten a little more time early he might’ve been considered for that. Eli Parquet, I thought he was one of the most improved players in the league, but (the Pac-12) had a lot of them, and certainly the (Jaiden) Delaire kid from Stanford was deserved that honor. There’s a lot of players in this league who had great years relative to their previous years. And Eli was one of those guys.
“Only one guy can win those player of the year awards and those sorts of things. It’s nice when your guys are recognized. But at the end of the day, that’s not what it’s about. What it’s about is who won the league. And that was Oregon. And who will win the Pac-12 tournament championship. Those are the things we’re concerned with, but certainly the individual awards for the players are always nice.”
The recipe for success for the Buffs against Cal is likely simple in theory: Slow Cal star Matt Bradley. However, that has been easier said than done for the Buffs in recent seasons.
CU was fortunate Bradley was out of the lineup when the Bears visited Boulder in January, leading to an 89-60 rout for the Buffs. It was a different story last month in Berkeley, as Bradley poured in a career-high 29 points in a 71-62 Cal victory.
In three games against CU since the start of the 2019-20 season, Bradley has averaged 24 points while shooting .535 (23-for-43) from the floor. In those three games, Bradley went 9-for-16 on 3-pointers and 17-for-19 at the free throw line. He also averaged six rebounds.
“Colorado, they’ve been as good as anybody on both ends this year,” Cal coach Mark Fox said. “We were fortunate with Matt in the last game to get him some open looks. He obviously was really comfortable shooting in his own gym. But (Thursday) is a whole new adventure. Colorado knows he played well also. I think the great thing for us that we’re starting to see from Matt — and we see it in practice, but we saw it (Wednesday) in the game (against Stanford) — is he’s starting to make the passes to make other people better. And that will probably be important (Thursday) as well.”
Bradley did not start in Cal’s first-round win against Stanford but checked in just one minute into the contest. When asked afterward if he could explain why Bradley didn’t start, Fox said, “No I can’t. But it’s nothing major.”…The team of Dave Pasch and Bill Walton will be on the call for the Buffs-Cal game on ESPN…Wright needs two steals to match Mike Reid for 11th all-time, two 3-pointers to tie Levi Knutson and Donnie Boyce for 11th all-time, and two rebounds to tie Randy Downs for 22nd all-time…The Buffs are 3-0 against Cal at the Pac-12 tournament, with wins in the 2012 semifinals, the 2014 quarterfinals, and the 2019 first round.